F1 Pre-Season Testing: Albon leads for Toro Rosso midway through Day 4

CIRCUIT DE BARCELONA-CATALUNYA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 19: Alex Albon, Scuderia Toro Rosso STR14 during

Alexander Albon set the fastest time seen so far at Barcelona to go P1 for Toro Rosso in the first session of Day 4 of pre-season testing.

After team mate Daniil Kvyat had led the way yesterday, Albon continued to uphold the honour for the team from Faenza, setting a 1m 17.637s around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya using the softest C5 Pirelli tyres.

Albon headed the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo by a tenth and a half, the Australian posting his team’s first sub-1m 18s time of the week with a 1m 17.785s.

With Mercedes having failed to record a lap below 1m 19s across the first three days of testing, the Silver Arrows finally turned up the wick on Lewis Hamilton’s W10 and bolted on some softer C4 rubber, the resultant time putting Hamilton third fastest with a lap of 1m 17.977s.

He was narrowly ahead of Charles Leclerc, as we got the first sniff in 2019 of the Mercedes/Ferrari battle that most likely lies ahead this year, while Leclerc’s morning was punctuated by a minor spin into the gravel – although he was able to drive out under his own steam.

Testing Day 4: Low-speed off beaches Norris in gravel

Having arrived in Barcelona yesterday morning, Thursday saw the first competitive running from the Williams team, with Robert Kubica using the FW42 to set a 1m 21.542s on the second-hardest C2 tyres – a time a second and a half adrift from the next best effort from Racing Point's Lance Stroll.

Still, barring a brace of spins for the Polish driver as he got back up to speed – and a scary near-miss with his former karting rival Hamilton – it was at least a solid morning of running for the Grove team.

Lando Norris had an unfortunate start to his day, meanwhile, ending up beached in the gravel at Turn 5 in a bizarre low-speed crash as he appeared to over-correct his McLaren MCL34 on cold tyres, while there was also a spin later in the day from Stroll.

Albon on top then – but will he manage to hold the position and claim bragging rights as we build towards the end of the first week of 2019 pre-season testing?

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